A brother in the Lord recently asked me a question that deserved far more attention than the brief answer I was able to give him due to lack of time and thought. If we hadn’t been leaving when the question was asked, I’m sure it would have sparked a great discussion. The question was, “How do we teach our children to love others who choose a worldly path, but not embrace what they are doing and not condemn them?”
Every dad who understands the need to love others and yet has purposed to raise his children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) should be concerned about this. We want to show the love of Christ to all we come in contact with and teach our children to do the same. We should teach our children to shun what Scripture says is wrong and worldly but to embrace what is of the Lord. In doing so, our children will view others through our grid of teaching and deem their conduct, activities and dress as good, bad, or in between. It is a very difficult challenge for our children to choose to live for the Lord Jesus, but not be influenced by other’s lifestyles and also not condemn them.
First, we dads must realize that being worldly is ungodly and dangerous to our children, otherwise this whole topic is a moot point. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). The word “friendship” in this verse simply means “fondness.” James is saying that even just a fondness for the world makes one an enemy of God. I don’t want that for myself or for my children.
James 4:4 seems to be a very black and white statement in a black, white, and gray world. How does a parent decide what is too much worldliness? I, personally, would rather not be even a little bit of an enemy with God. Isn’t it better to remain on the side of righteousness and to make sure we don’t have any kind of friendship with the world? Each dad needs to think hard about this and the ramifications to his family. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Next, it is important that we understand the danger associated with our children having worldly friends. If our children spend time with worldly children, will that worldliness “rub off” on them? “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). In this verse, we are told that we should no longer be children because children are easily influenced by others. Children are the example used in this verse of those who are being easily led away. This verse is very clear. It doesn’t limit those who are led away to children who are simple or gullible. ALL children fit this category of being tossed to and fro. We want to think our children are different—that they are strong and stable. However, Scripture says children are led astray. This is the nature of children, and it is critical that every parent believes what Scripture says. If we don’t apply this truth to our parenting, our children are in danger.
Whoever are children are around will influence them. That is one reason why we are told in Deuteronomy 6:7 to be with our children. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” If we are with our children we have the opportunity to influence them ourselves and to protect them from unwholesome influences. Because of the preciousness of our children and how easily they are led astray, the Lord is telling us to be with our children.
Parents attending conservative churches frequently tell us of a struggle they have. They are pleased with the church in that it is conservative and doesn’t have programs that split up the family, yet often other parents will not oversee their children. After the worship time, the children are allowed to run loose, away from the parents, and negative “fruit” prevails with the children.
I know some parents think their children will conduct themselves properly even when among those who are acting inappropriately. That might be true, but I have seen many times through the years groups of men drawn into foolishness when they never would have acted that way with their wives present. I think most will find that even more “mature” youth will tend toward folly when among the “right” group of peers. It may not be as bad as worldly children initially, but it will all lead in the same ungodly direction. To avoid this influence on our children, we will need to be with them, and that will impact our time. As adults we want to enjoy fellowshipping with other adults while letting our children have “fun” with the other children. However, the fun they are having is often not for their edification.
It is common to hear about a family who has tragically lost their home to a fire. Even if everyone escapes safely, it is a terrible thing for a family’s home to be destroyed. Yet, many families choose to have fireplaces and woodstoves in their homes knowing fire presents a great danger to life and property. Why? It is because they are choosing to put safeguards in place to manage the danger of the fire. In the same way, it is important that each family understands the seriousness of exposing their children to worldly children and that they choose appropriate safeguards.
Now that we are in agreement as to the seriousness of friendship with the world, what does Scripture say about teaching children to love others and not condemn them? We are called to love others, but how we do that and protect our family is the key issue. We will continue this important topic next month.